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Minutes of the Sport Wales Board meeting held on Thursday 20 May 2021 (online)

Present: Lawrence Conway (Chair), Pippa Britton (Vice Chair), Ashok Ahir (Items 1-4.5,9), Ian Bancroft, Dafydd Trystan Davies, Delyth Evans, Nicola Mead-Batten, Hannah Murphy, Judi Rhys, Professor Leigh Robinson, Phil Tilley, Alison Thorne, Martin Veale

Staff: Sarah Powell (CEO), Brian Davies, Graham Williams, Rachel Davies, Liam Hull, Joanne Nicholas, Rhian Evans, Amanda Thompson (Minutes)

Observers: Nicola Guy & Paul Kindred, Welsh Government (Items 1-8)


1.    Welcome/apologies for absence


The Chair welcomed all to the meeting. Apologies for absence were received from Rajma Begum. She asked the Board to note she was pleased with the work around EDI across Sport Wales and praised the passion and commitment from staff around this.


2.    Declaration of interests


No new declarations were made. Due to his new position as a Trustee with Newport Live, Phil Tilley had temporarily stepped down from membership of the Facilities Review Group. The Chair thanked him for his contribution to FRG’s work to date.


3.    Minutes of the previous meeting dated 25 February 2021


The minutes were accepted as a true and accurate record. There were no matters arising.


4.    Strategy & Recovery Planning


4.1        Business Plan 2020/21 Year-End report – SW(21)16


The report covered the previous quarter’s activity and delivery for the year against the business plan, highlighting the main areas of business and the learning from it. Members noted that:

  • There was no new Elite sport strategy as it was covered by the overall Sport Wales strategy.
  • The pooling of internal resources to deal with the return of sport meant changes were made to the original schedule of delivery.
  • The consultant Andy Brogan was working with Sport Wales on the new approach to accountability.


Discussion points:

  • A request for the Active Education work concerning primary schools to press the need for inclusion of all children within sport and physical activity.
  • Impact assessments were being carried out correctly, but the results were not being reported consistently within the Board’s meeting papers.
  • The £12.5m additional funding channelled through Sport Wales for the sport recovery packages had been fully committed and spent. The funding was given to support those in risk of failure who were considered to be viable after March 2021. The decision-making process had been robust, and its flexibility enabled Sport Wales to react quickly to learning and reflection. The Welsh Government’s template log would be used for the audit trail. Evaluation of impact would be complete in time for the Board’s next meeting in July.
  • The Welsh Government had begun its own internal audit into recovery funding. From the Sports division this would focus on the Winter Survival package and SLRP. Welsh Government officials retained full confidence in Sport Wales distributing the support.



4.2        Business Plan 2021/22 – SW(21)17


Following the Board’s meeting in February discussions were held with Welsh Government officials who were content with the proposed approach to the Business Plan. The narrative had been updated to show the link between the priorities and the strategic intent statements.


Discussion points:

  • There was concern that the document would not be easily understood by the external audience and that business priorities were not clear or related to getting Wales more active.
  • Closer reference to the Future Generations Act should be made along with detailed measures of how Sport Wales would achieve its EDI aims.
  • The Business Plan should also show case the benefits of sport and physical activity and the link to cultural development.
  • Review the document to reflect the priorities of the newly selected Ministers, particularly to reflect the positioning of sport within the Economy portfolio.
  • It was expected that Members of the Senedd would be asking more questions, so Sport Wales needed to have readily available the evidence to show impact at a local level.
  • To note the work being done around diversity and the changes to be made at all levels.


It was agreed that the document would be further edited to wrap the organisation’s focus around the Vision and strategy and make it more externally focused.


ACTION:           The Business Plan was approved subject to the Executive overseeing further amendments, then sent to the Welsh Government for sign off. The Board would have sight of the final version.


4.3        Approach to Digitalisation – SW(21)18


The report gave an update on the operationalisation of digitalisation across Sport Wales. This work would be done in partnership with the Centre for Digital Public Services in order to design and deliver digital services around the needs of the people who use them.  The strategy included:

  • Internal engagement for staff buy in and positive influence on all areas of the business.
  • External engagement to build new networks and understand how to achieve the Vision.
  • Upskilling staff to build confidence and capability.
  • A digital strategy to make better use of resources and develop products and services that best meet the needs of multiple teams.
  • Developing a digital identity with platforms and content that were accessible and engaging.
  • Supporting the sector starting with a survey to identify common themes and levels of commitment for a more strategic approach to organisational digitalisation and data security.
  • Future gazing to map the systems currently used and establish how to evolve them over time as new technology emerges. Sharing this work with partners will help them become resilient.
  •  Key projects: a new approach for community investment to reach those who most need the support and tackle inequalities; a new approach for the Institute to better understand partners’ performance challenges and allocate resources accordingly; modernisation of SWNC’s front of house service and connectivity.


Discussion points:

  • A request to include the Board within upskilling and training plans.
  • Think about the format and suitability of digital content so it can cascade through the sector.
  • Digital connectivity across different areas of the business.
  • Approval of the approach taken for staff engagement and the sensitivity around that.
  • Have adequate resources been identified and what will happen if this is not the case?


  • The ‘sprint’ service design approach and commitment of resources, some pain may be experienced when making the change, but it will allow Sport Wales to reach people in a new way and to collect new data.
  • The challenge of meeting people’s needs when those needs are not always known.
  • The internal and external dialogues should be entwined.
  • People cannot be taken out of their day jobs and made into change experts.
  • Bring partners in on this work earlier than planned because so much has shifted recently. Digital means are used widely, and people now have a different expectation.
  • Digitalisation and de-carbonisation are the two areas of work that should be prioritised to move ahead at speed.
  • The Executive was conscious of the need to manage expectations and deliverability within the available resources and staff capacity.


4.4        Future working environment – SW(21)19


The report showed how the future working arrangements at Sport Wales were evolving. Longer-term planning would follow in the wake of further research and wider trends. The Board was asked to comment on the direction of travel. Firmer plans would be ready for the next Board meeting in July.


The 6-week rota for a voluntary return to the offices began on 10 May and had received positive feedback from staff so far.  A recent pulse survey showed staff favoured a future blended return.


Discussion points:

  • The impact on the organisation’s culture and identity cannot be known yet. Staff views on future working practices were bound to be divergent so this would need careful managing.
  • Less commuting was a very positive contribution to lowering the carbon footprint.
  • The future use of SWNC would be brought back to the Facilities Review Group in September. Future working arrangements would feed into this.
  • Sport Wales should be clear to staff about their performance and delivery expectations.
  • Be clear about the wider principles and determine what Sport Wales wanted the workplace to be - only then could there be talk about how to achieve that and in what type of space.
  • Continued remote working increased risks of dysconnectivity, loss of corporate culture, loss of creativity, poorer team relationships, loss of morale and unclear expectations.
  • The working arrangements should be based on relational rather than transactional work.
  • Junior grade staff may feel more disconnected. It was important to ensure people could meet each other and receive support. The corporate culture had to be fully inclusive.
  • Long-established teams had continued to work effectively, it had been more challenging with new members of staff who had joined over the past year.
  • Building and maintaining organisational culture in a hybrid model needed a lot of thought.
  • Whatever plans arose from the pilot rota return would not be set in stone for the long term, rather the organisation would have to respond to changing circumstances in the future.
  • Bear in mind that allowing a hybrid working pattern may be hard to revert in the future.
  • Could Sport Wales link with an academic body or other group to act as a case study and feed into wider sector changes?
  • A suggestion of offering SWNC for use as a Community Hub.


The Executive agreed this had been a really useful discussion which would help shape the principles and a framework around business needs alongside ensuring the individual could also thrive.


4.5        Capital expenditure overview – SW(21)20


The report gave a further update on the distribution of £7m sports capital investment received from the Welsh Government, together with the plans for a longer-term approach.


Short-term 2021/22:

  • Invest in the BeActiveWales Fund for capital projects (e.g. equipment, on pitch), c£700k
  •  2) Re-open ‘Place For Sport’ public application scheme (utilising Crowdfunding partner similar to the Sport England ‘Active Together’ scheme) c£300k
  • Continue to invest in the ATP Collaboration scheme, c£2.7m
  • Elite Facilities Review, if any previously identified projects were still viable, c£2.5m
  • Direct investment with suitable partner(s) for first stage to address inequality, especially with regards to race, c£200k. Explore potential future expansion with other partners as part of a further phase following review of the initial learning and impact.


This initial breakdown was indicative only and subject to further discussions and reviews. A flexible approach between each element would be taken again. Up to 10% was available for Sport Wales’ National Centres and administrative purposes.


Regarding the longer-term strategy, an internal project group had been established led by the Assistant Director of National Sports Facilities and previous strategies and proposals would be reviewed before drafting a new plan for discussion.  A further update would be given to the Board at the next meeting in July.


5.    Young Ambassador Steering Group(YASG)/Youth Panel reports


5.1        YASG report


The YASG representative was not present at this meeting. The report was noted.


5.2        Youth Panel update – SW(21)21


Following discussions with Youth Sport Trust to look at possible models, it was decided that Sport Wales needed to transition from the current YASG to a new Youth Panel. The terms of reference were agreed with the Executive. The purpose of the Youth Panel was to give a voice to young people in the work of Sport Wales by linking directly to the Board and to oversee the delivery of the Young Ambassador programme in Wales.


Recruitment of Youth Board members took place in March/April. Seven people were appointed and a further seven would transition across from YASG. Dafydd Trystan Davies would act as the Board’s point of contact. Over the next month the Panel would meet to appoint a chair and put together a workplan. The Comms team would handle announcements of the Panel to partners. A request was made to reserve a seat on the Panel for a representative of Disability Sport Wales Youth Panel and to have this included within the terms of reference, which would be taken back to the Panel for consideration.  The current membership did include young people with disabilities.


6.    Board Groups & Standing Committees


6.1        Summary of Board Group meetings – SW(21)22


The report summarised the topics discussed at the recent meetings of the Sport Partnerships Project Board (formerly known as CSAP Project Board), Audit & Risk Assurance Committee and the Facilities Review Group. Members noted the report.


6.2        Facilities Review Group (FRG) – SW(21)23


FRG’s membership had been expanded with the addition of Hannah Murphy and Nicola Mead-Batten.  At the meeting on 29 April FMG Consultants laid out the timetable for their work and provided an update on the feedback received through soft market testing with a range of potentially interested operators. This feedback had been positive with a healthy number of interested parties showing understanding and articulating what would be important to them in order to move forward.  Crucial measures for Sport Wales were how the partnership was constructed, how the outdoor activities market was grown, effective engagement throughout the process and the value of submissions that were competitive yet also allowed for negotiation and shaping. Timelines were indicative at this stage.


Discussion points:

  • FRG had yet to see a full analysis of costs and potential savings, but when done the Board would be informed.
  • Running any type of sports or leisure facility post-Covid19 was likely to be on a deficit basis in the short term. It was important that Board Members understood and agreed the priorities and the expectations. These had to be made clear.
  • The Welsh Government’s position regarding capital investment needed to be known because it was central to the decision on what type of organisation should be chosen.  The current indication to Welsh Government officials was not optimistic. The CEO was advised to ask for Plas Menai formally added as a named project within the Welsh Government’s programme.  “Invest in our world-class sports facilities, promote equal access to sports and support young and talented athletes and grassroots clubs. We will invest in new facilities such as 4G pitches” had been written in Welsh Labour’s manifesto. The Chair would discuss this position further with the CEO.


The Board approved the project plan in principle and a two-stage tender process (competitive procedure with negotiation) in principle. The Board would be asked to make further decisions at its next meeting in July.


6.3        Diversity Group update – SW(21)24


The report gave an update on the current position for the work around Race in Sport, Transgender Inclusion, Sport Wales recruitment, Sport Wales Public Body Equity Partnership, and the International Womens Group.


A key business plan priority for the year was to gain a better understanding of the barriers to participation by developing the EDI networks (with an initial focus on race).  The following were the main areas of ongoing work to support that priority:

  • Continue to invest in a partnership with AKD over the next 9-12 months.
  • Make resources available to tackle the barriers and challenges that surface.
  • Commit people resource to working in partnership with AKD.
  • Gain clarity over Sport Wales’ role in developing better networks and its support to partners for this area of work.
  • Ensure Sport Wales develops the specialist skills, expertise and trust needed internally to be able to develop and maintain better networks.
  • Investigate ‘who are we’ as an organisational project.


In addition, a new approach to internships, apprenticeship schemes and work experience opportunities would be developed, along with an increased presence at job fairs and community events. Work would also continue as part of the partnership with SCEG to support Carbmill Consulting in the final stages of transgender inclusion in sport research and guidance.


Discussion points:

The Executive wanted to steer away from a target-based approach based on national statistics for characteristics as it would not drive positive behaviour.

  • It had been agreed that the Board should have early sight of SCEG’s draft policy development paper. This may be addressed in a separate deep dive session for the Board.
  • The discussions did include consideration of intersectionality. Consideration of mixed diversity was key and also a consideration of non-visible disabilities.
  • Sport Wales was marking a spectrum of religious and cultural festivals internally, the most recent being Ramadan.
  • A hybrid working pattern may allow people from a more diverse range of the population and geographical spread to join Sport Wales.
  • Sport Wales would submit a formal response to the Welsh Government’s Race & Equality Action Plan.  A further consultation would be following on LGBTQ+ action plan.
  • The capital investment plan would seek partner(s) to address inequality, especially with regards to race (first stage in 2021/22) – this was an example of an innovative focus on funding things differently in response to EDI challenges.


7.    Finance, Risk & Assurance


7.1        Finance Report 2020/21 – SW(21)25


The audit process had started, and staff were thanked for their work in preparing the accounts in an accurate and timely manner.  RD confirmed she could provide a breakdown for the marketing budget line. Members noted the report.


7.2        Corporate Risk Register & Assurance Framework – SW(21)26


The report summarised the change to risk since the last Board meeting in February.

  • Failure to comply with regulations of all government legislation: Slight Increase
  • Organisational Redesign Inhibits progress of the strategy: Slight reduction
  • Failure to implement the new resourcing strategy inhibits progress of new strategy: Reduction
  •  Non-achievement of corporate goals due to low levels of staff wellbeing and morale as a result of the pandemic. New risk


Covid19 continued to impact on the sporting sector and its risk upon the progress of the Vision and strategy remained the highest rated risk within the CRR. Linked to that was the risk of reduced funding on the achievement of the strategic objectives in light of the reduced income of both National Centres and reduced public expenditure through the post-pandemic economic recovery.


8.    Chair & Executive Report


8.1        Chair & Executive report – SW(21)27


The CEO highlighted:

  • GeorginaHaarhoff, Deputy Director for the Curriculum, shared the ambitions held by Sport Wales and understood the link between physical activity and recovery within Education.
  • Emma Wilkins had been appointed as the new Director of Finance & Business Services.
  • The CEO was holding online conversations with the leads from NGBs, local authorities and other key partners to reflect on what had been learned and plans for moving forward.
  • The ‘Back in the Game’ campaign had received positive feedback.



8.2        Senedd Cymru election update


Members noted the recent Senedd Cymru election results and change to portfolios.


9.    Any Other Business


Members noted the planned away day for 21 October 2021.


10.   Date of the next meeting


Board Members would be invited back to meet in person at SWNC for the next meeting on 7 July. There would also be the continued option to join the meeting online.



These minutes were approved at the Board’s meeting on 7 July 2021.